Our manifesto is making waves! Read all about the impact of our affordable workspace actions.
Last Monday 25th March members of the Guild and Guardians of the Arches pulled off a truly compelling evening of people politics in action! Members of both organisations worked together to create an assembly designed to hold the membership and local politicians to account on the proposals made at the launch of the Affordable Workspace Manifesto one year ago.
A film highlighting the Guild’s distinct Community Organising approach for a Royal Society of Arts backed Trades Guild Toolkit is in the pipeline. The film highlights how this approach works in practice. In the interim, you can watch a clip from Monday night by film-maker Daniel Frampton here.
Co-Chair for the evening Ellan Doran, a fellow of the RSA, and an award-winning designer explained the process leading up the creation of our Affordable Workspace Manifesto.
“As Guild leaders, we were challenged to build on our relationships with local businesses in East London and find out what the single most important issue to face them was. Collectively and including the numbers from our research through surveys and focus groups we spoke to 300 local businesses and rents, closely followed by business rates came back as the most important issue for the majority of people.
With this democratic mandate and having already successfully campaigned on rates we went on to develop our affordable workspace manifesto with five proposals that we hope will make a real difference to our community.”
Before updates from the Mayors of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, there were presentations about the initiatives taken by the Guild. Web developer Michael Watts from Founders & Coders and Frances Northrop from the New Economics Foundation uncovered exciting developments with our London Working Rent research and a revolutionary new web-based app called RENTCHECK. The first iteration was demonstrated by Michael, showing what has been created with the help of students from Queen Mary Univerity as well as Guild Reps for Spitalfields Abi and Tayo Abimbola. Both Mayors later announced that they will each be investing in RENTCHECK so that it can be developed to the final stage, making it exclusively available to East End Trades Guild and Guardians of the Arches members only, allowing them to access comparable evidence at the lower end of the market.
Next up came Frances Northrop who talked through the research undertaken together with members for the London Working Rent concept, this work was supported by Tower Hamlets Council, a commitment honoured by John Biggs as a result of last years event. The research looks at the small businesses point of view when decerning what affordable really means. Through this research, together we uncovered three core principles for truly affordable workspace:
1. Evidence-based affordability for small businesses and social enterprises, accounting for an affordable percentage of turnover by sector and the lowest comparable evidence of an area
2. Security of tenure, leases that are within the Landlord and Tenant Act
3. Diversity of businesses to ensure a good mix of small independent businesses and social enterprises across different sectors for vibrant developments and high streets
Frances went on to introduce Green Party member Caroline Russell from the Economy Committee at the Greater London Authority. Caroline sits on the London Working Rent Steering Group which is convened by the Guild in partnership with NEF and GOTA. Caroline spoke enthusiastically about our work together.
“I think the Transport for London door is open, Director of Development for TfL Graham Craig and his colleague Tom Atkinson who I have met were receptive to the London Working Rent proposal, I don’t think you will have to push very hard to get them onboard.
I also spoke to them about the social good and public purpose that small businesses can provide. I raised the question from Hackney Brewery who pay the London Living Wage and use green energy and therefore have higher costs, does TfL take this into consideration? What we don’t yet have is a clear universally agreed measure, how do you evaluate public purpose? That’s where I hope that the East End Trades Guild, Guardians of the Arches and the New Economics Foundation will step in to help work this out as part of the London Working Rent process. It’s right that the research comes from you, not from Transport for London. It’s an issue that I think is really crucial that you keep ownership of as you develop it and take it forward.
This manifesto is an incredibly worthwhile piece of work and incredibly well-timed. It’s just one year away from the next London Mayoral election so there will be politicians from all parties who will be open to your ideas.”
Moving testimony was then given from Rosie Wolfenden – Director of Tatty Devine and Guild Advisory Board member, Leni Jones – Director of Guardians of the Arches and Leonard Maloney from JC Motors who is also Guardians of the Arches and Guild Rep for Haggerston. Len was joined on stage by his young workers and apprentices – Ramish Singh, Dave Shaheen Lee, Samari Bramble, Azan Hanson and volunteer Abraham Ekrem.
Len and his team personify the community value that small businesses like his bring to our neighbourhoods. There was a heartfelt round of applause for the team after apprentice Dave Lee spoke about his experiences at JC Motors. “Since I’ve been working with JC Motors I’ve been learning, he has helped me to enhance my mechanical skills so much that I can’t believe it! Thank you so much for that Mr Len”
Len then went on to tell his story, setting the scene for the Mayors.
“It seems that money can be a poison and it is sad to see that businesses like ours are being poisoned, we are looking for stability for businesses who give back to the community. I am looking for landlords to work with me to support young people”
Len invited Philip Glanville to update the room on the commitments he made last year and he began by recognising the work of Guardians of the Arches.
“We would not have had the commitment of the tenant first approach from the Arches Company if it hadn’t been for the Guardians of the Arches Campaign” And recalled the success of the business rates campaigning work of the Guild in 2017. “We fought together and took a petition to number 10 Downing Street. I’m pleased that we have seen some relief in recent budgets around business rates. It’s worth remembering that is 27 million pounds returned to Hackney through those different reliefs that have been won by your campaign and support from councils.”
Moving onto the specific asks of last year Philip Glanville promised to have the empty shops owned by Hackney Council on Church Street let by the start of next year. On affordability, he stated that they have inserted new definitions into Hackney’s local plan. As a result of the work of the Guild, these definitions are now down from 80% of market rent for new developments to 40% in Shoreditch and 60% in the rest of the borough. In Hackney Wick he stated that he’d gone further still with the master plan agreed by Hackney, Tower Hamlets and the LLDC with a new cap of £8 per square meter for new affordable workspace and the council’s own units in Hackney Wick.
In addition, he announced that Hackney will be creating 4000 sq meters of affordable workspace in two pilot sites in Homerton and Haggerston, in total aiming for 10,000 sq meters within garage and undercroft space more broadly. Mayor Glanville stipulated that he wanted to work with our members to make these spaces genuinely affordable for small businesses. “If caps and percentages of the market don’t work then it’s about turnover so this is an opportunity to work with the council in those spaces to think about how we can deliver that. We will be investing between 5 and 7 million pounds in these spaces to ensure they are affordable in perpetuity for local people. We will need in exchange real commitments on the social value that Len and many of you already embody around apprenticeships and living wages to justify to our residents why we’re investing in this kind of space.”
Finally, on our transparency initiative calling for a register of landlords and comparable evidence, he said: “We know that we need a real disruption to the market so I am pleased to say that we are going to invest in the rent app and will be providing our data which was also one of your key asks from last year. In summing up we’re really committed to this agenda, working with you keeping up the pressure on landlords and ensuring that we act with our own stock too”.
Next we heard from John Biggs who signalled a strong interest in the proposal for a small business Community Land Trust. “We want to talk about Community Land Trusts, we’re still obsessed with Community Land trusts for housing which is important, but we need them to work in a way that combines workspace and housing together. Guardians of the Arches has been doing fantastic work, a number of businesses I know have been squeezed out by the high rent levels. Myself and Phil have separately met with the new landlords and they claim to have a more passionate and curatorial approach to their landlordism, I’m not convinced by this yet and we need to keep the pressure up on them if we’re to get the right outcomes.”
Then perhaps hinting at Blackstone and Telereal Trillium as partners for a Small Business CLT he followed this by saying: “The way I see it is that If we can achieve Community Land trust ownership of workspace, then through that we can secure a more compassionate, affordable, reasonable and business-focused rent level. The secret must be trying to get the private sector to work in a more curatorial partnership.”
Leni Jones from Guardians of the Arches seized the bull by the horns and asked for a broad commitment that both Mayors work with us to campaign for a percentage of arches in their boroughs to adopt our London Working Rent principles.
John replied: “Yes, last year we agreed that we would support the work and we will continue to do so. It’s good that you have politicians in front of you, this is a political act. The same old model of politics is broken. We need to come up with new models that put community value alongside the rate of return. Yes, I am happy to work with you and the New Economics Foundation who are an important organisation challenging some of the orthodoxies around how we measure what is important.”
Philip agreed. “I definitely support the campaign to have a proportion of the arches that are affordable and linked to that exploring the Working Rent as a concept. We will have to be harder on the community benefit, we will need to agree the terms of engagement that means the public know what they are getting in return.”
When asked about applying these principles to their own commercial stock they found it a little harder to walk the walk and talk the talk. When pushed by Leni, Philip agreed to look into exploring the principles in new council sites to test them, with a definite yes to security of tenure and diversity of businesses.
John broadly agreed in principle saying “I would like to, in practice, it will be tougher”
Rosie asked for support from Mayors the to work with the Guild to help shape the commercial units within the Bishopsgate Goodsyard development which fall across both councils, and they agreed.
Len put the final ask to Mayor Glanville, requesting to see the lease Hackney has with TfL as the freeholders to the Kingsland Road Viaduct. Philip agreed saying that they owned the freehold from Shoreditch High Street up to Haggerston Station.
Co-Chair Sarah Marks thanked the Mayors for their continued support and commitment in our pioneering work together whereupon everyone applauded! Then fellowship and comradery were enjoyed with Arapina Bakery treats, Square Root Soda, East London Brewing Company, Five Points Brewing Company, and Hackney Brewery beer!
The event was an immense achievement, huge thanks to everyone who was involved especially Conor and Alex from The Mermaid Pub, all the brewers for drinks sponsorship, Sim Takhar from the Old Bank Vault, Qusai Jafferji from Newmans Stationery, Lee Sargent from Calverts, Photographer Jeremy Freedman and filmmakers Hazel Sheffield and Daniel Frampton.